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Tap the Best Takeaways from the International Conference on Fundraising

Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, Notes on Nonprofits

I watched from afar as the international fundraising conference hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals was held this week in Las Vegas. Over 2,800 fundraisers from around the world were on hand to discuss the latest fundraising trends and techniques.

Here are a few helpful takeaways I gleaned from friends, clients, and colleagues in attendance.  

Disabilities and inclusion

10% of the nonprofit workforce is comprised of people with a disability according to Race to Lead 2019, Building Movement Project. This is a reminder to nonprofit leaders that diversity, equity, and inclusion includes disability.  

Raises and burnout

Labor shortages and burnout were on the mind of attendees and speakers. Speaker @cheriankoshy said, “if you have not given your staff a raise this year, you have effectively given them a pay cut. Inflation and extra work have taken a toll on nonprofit employees over the last two to three years.”

Speaker @TycelyWilliams added, “no one needs to be a martyr for their mission. Nonprofit professionals don’t deserve harassment, unequal pay, belittling comments, or to be underpaid.” These sentiments are important considerations as executive directors and boards identify ways to support their staff and prepare budgets for the next fiscal year.

Rethinking special events

We have all seen the impact of the pandemic on special events which remain a bit in flux. One speaker encouraged nonprofits to take advantage of this opportunity to get rid of events that don’t work.

I applaud this idea and believe now is the time to eliminate broken, low performing events. Doing so will provide more time to focus on growing one, maybe two, highly successful events, cultivate individual relationships, and earn the right to ask for bigger gifts. 

Introductions and burnout

Conference sessions typically begin with a speaker introduction. That’s why I appreciated this poem from @RhymesforGood about the importance of a well-prepared introduction.

A few winces and nodding heads resulted from a speaker who encouraged fundraisers to not try and do “all the things.” Ultimately, doing a few things exceptionally well may be the best way to strengthen your organization and avoid staff/volunteer burnout. 

Listen for the donor

Another session offered two compelling reasons to start a planned giving program: (1) the average age of U.S. donors is 62 years old; and (2) 10,000 people a day turn 65.  If your organization has been in existence for more than 10 years, consider if now may be a good time to launch a legacy giving program. 

I liked this approach from @TorontoKrishan who said when you meet with a donor, you’re not there to sell the gift. You’re there to listen to the donor, hear their story, and FIND the gift. This reminded me of fundraising icon Jerald Panas who always said the best fundraisers know how to “listen the gift.”  

Data and email

My colleague @EphraimGopin, who traveled over 7,000 miles to attend the conference, reminded fundraisers about the importance of data hygiene for nonprofit email practices. The number of subscribers is important, but the quality of the list is more important.

Speaker @tclaybuck added, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, and that swing is your story. But your story doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have the accurate data to send it out.” Investing in data management is a hallmark of successful fundraising programs. 

These highlights are only a fraction of the topics, keynote speakers, and resources shared during the conference. Now is the time to start planning and budgeting for next year’s conference which will be held in New Orleans on April 16-18, 2023. 

Notes on Nonprofits Live

Join me and Felina Martin at noon Tuesday, May 10, on Facebook for Notes on Nonprofits Live. Our topic is “Grow, Merge or Close” and our guest will be Jan Baskin, Founder and CEO of Business Enhancement Services.

Jan is an expert in helping nonprofits evaluate their business model and navigate successful merges and acquisitions. We will discuss the differences between mergers, acquisitions, collaborations, and partnerships and I invite you to join us. 

Notes on Nonprofits is a column in the Tallahassee Democrat produced by Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting, and includes resources, responses to reader questions, guest columns, and timeless topics. This column first appeared on Sunday, May 8, 2022. Please send your comments and questions.

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